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What Shall We Drink?
Photo: Clement Palouzier
The average American consumes 21 percent of their calories from beverages. This represents an increase of 150-300 calories more than was consumed 30 years ago. Most of this increase comes from sweetened fruit drinks and soft drinks. In addition, the portion size of beverages has also increased.

An overuse of beverages could be a factor in the increased incidence of obesity in America. Beverages are less satiating than solid foods. Hence, liquid calories don’t turn off the appetite control mechanism as readily, and we don’t compensate later on by eating less food.

Beverages vary dramatically in caloric value and nutritional profile. A can of V8 juice provides 70 calories, a cup of regular soymilk has 90-100 calories, a cup of orange juice has 110 calories, a cup of low-fat milk has 120 calories, and a cup of grape juice provides 150 calories. Commonly consumed beverages that come in greater serving sizes typically provide two to four times more calories. For example, a 12-ounce bottle of Snapple lemonade provides 220 calories, a 20-ounce bottle of 7UP provides 250 calories, while a 20-ounce fruit smoothie provides about 400 calories. Compare this with a medium Baskin-Robbins vanilla shake, which tops out at 980 calories.

Loaded with Sugar

Too many beverages are loaded with sugar, some of which contain eight to 15 teaspoons of sugar, or even more. Herbal teas generally provide neither calories nor caffeine. In contrast, black tea has 50 mg of caffeine per cup, while a 20-ounce Diet Coke has 80 mg of caffeine. Compare this with 12 ounces of Starbucks coffee with 300 mg of caffeine, and a 20-ounce Starbucks coffee with 500 mg of caffeine.

Switching from a non-caloric beverage to one containing a caloric sweetener can produce a gain in body weight. However, the use of artificially sweetened diet drinks does not necessarily help overweight persons lose weight. Such people often compensate for the missing calories and make up by eating extra calories later on. In spite of the advertising campaigns, there is no convincing evidence that drinking milk will help you lose weight.

While fruit juices contain many vitamins and minerals, the juices are usually devoid of fiber and have about twice the concentration of calories than a serving of fruit. While vegetable juices such as V8 have fewer calories than fruit juices, they are normally very high in sodium. Sports drinks are very popular today and typically contain fewer calories than soft drinks. However, they don’t provide any real advantage to the average athlete.

The amount of fluids one needs to drink varies greatly, according to the individual’s metabolism, body size, the level of exercise, and the ambient temperature. The overall recommendation is to drink four to eight glasses of water per day, and cut back the use of other beverages as much as possible.

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By Winston J. Craig. Reprinted with permission from the Lake Union Herald, January 2007. Copyright © 2007 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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